Artist: Dave Keller
Album: Right Back Atcha
Label: Tastee Tone
Release Date: 09/23/2016
Vermonter Dave Keller has earned Blues Music Awards for each of his previous releases. 2014’s devastatingly powerful break-up record, Soul Changes, chronicled a difficult period of Dave’s life. This one almost had to show his upbeat side and, fortunately, it glows with positivity. Unlike his two previous recordings, done with veteran studio musicians, Dave went to his road band and produced the record himself. As I’ve said on these pages before, Dave is a real deal soul man and tasteful guitarist. Just ask Johnny Rawls, for whom Dave is often a bandleader, or Ronnie Earl, for whom Dave has contributed vocals. Rawls sums it up probably better than I can in much fewer words, “Put it to you like this,” Rawls says, “Some people got it and some people don’t. Dave Keller got it.”
With 11 new original songs and one rather obscure soul cover, Dave does it in his self-described ‘old school’ way. “For a long time I’ve wanted to make a record with my guys. We’ve played together for over ten years, and know each other inside out.” So, with his band as the foundation Dave brought in The Mo’ Sax Horns, a couple of backup singers, and even a string section for three songs. As he usually does, he draws the song material from his own life experiences – usually those that most of us can relate to. The choruses and hooks will often get you singing along right with him.
Keller’s powerful, honest vocals were shaped partly through mentorship with the late, great Mighty Sam McClain while his guitar work sometimes shows glimpses of his guitar mentors, Ronnie Earl, and Robert Ward, who played with Wilson Pickett. Yet, at this point in his career, Keller is clearly his own man, vibrant in his own environment, having recorded the album in Vermont. Each track is strong but highlights have to include these: “2 AM Talks,” the memorable ballad, “Deeper Than the Eye Can See.” “Forever Summer,” which adds just a touch of country, “Circles” which is notable for its stripped-down sound and “She’s Just Katie,” which has some lyrics that describe his girlfriend in a fun, clever way. Notably, the tenor sax solos on three tunes (“It’s Time You Made Up Your Mind,” “Slow Train” and “Willing to Learn”) are from Joe Moore, who toured with Wilson Pickett during the peak soul days of the late 1960s.
There are many blue-eyed soul men far better known than Keller. Not many can match his feeling. His soul can send chills through you. Hopefully, this time around, Keller will break through and win a BMA. He deserves it.